May 26, 2016
Every successful business reaches a stage where it goes beyond its own comfort zone, and begins to challenge the convention — status quo, the norm, industry standard. These defining moments are what set your brand apart from others, and allow your voice to be heard.
There are several aspects of what creates an enduring brand. We are in part 3 of a 4-part series that dissects what qualities differentiate these enduring brands (read part 1 and part 2 to catch up!). So far we’ve chatted about creating a long-term vision, and how to protect your pursuits, and today we’re diving into how challenging the convention and breaking free from your comfort zone allow your brand to flourish.
Offer specialized services
As mentioned in part 2 of the “enduring brand” series (Protect your Pursuit), a successful brand narrows their focus. Meaning, they don’t offer every service + product under the sun, instead a successful brand narrows their focus and offers limited services.
There are two reasons why this is the best approach in a service-based business:
- Your brand becomes easily associated with that specific service. If you want coffee, what immediately comes to mind? Starbucks probably tops the list. What doesn’t come to mind is a restaurant that serves coffee, along with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Though both may have tasty beverages, one is more successful than the other in the word association game.
Just as Starbucks monopolizes the coffee market, your goal as a service-based industry should be to monopolize your specific service.
- Another benefit of narrowing your focus is that it allows your brand to grow and improve quality in that service. Your portfolio, or client list, will grow and will allow you gain more valuable experience in that field.
Alternatively, if you offer a wide array of services, your portfolio will appear scattered and disjointed. Potential clients will be confused if you are the right fit for their investment. A tailored portfolio, showing exclusive quality experience in one service, is much more desireable to potential clients.
I know what you are thinking… this means that you will be turning down paychecks. I guarantee it. People will approach you with services that can certainly accommodate, however aren’t in the best interest of your brand. The time you spend on these services outside of your niche, is distracting you from your vision.
I speak from experience here. When I first launched Spruce Rd., I was approached to design flyers, websites on platforms I wasn’t familiar with, and other design collateral. I was even offered a retainer client, which I turned down for the reason that it didn’t fit within my vision. These decisions were tough when I had limited income + current clients booked. It was a serious gut check of sticking to my guns, or bending my own rules.
Even today, a year and half later and a reputation of a branding studio, I receive inquiries to design PDF ebooks, stand alone websites (without branding), and other design collateral. My studio has made the choice to pass up on these projects + potential income, as it doesn’t align with our vision. We believe so strongly in a quality brand design, that we turn down anything else that doesn’t involve a fresh identity. The only exception to this rule is when a previous branding client approaches us with additional collateral. Of course, we are happy to transition their branding to new marketing materials, and in fact encourage it.
Instead of accepting the quick cash for services outside of our niche, I remained confident in my narrowed focus. This has served me SO well, and allowed my brand to evolve into the exclusive branding design studio that it is today.
Create your own process
Once you’ve invested the time into your craft — whether that is lettering, logo design, photography, writing, etc. — create a process that works for you. By process, I mean everything from how you present your work to the client, on-boarding clients, following up, and everything in between.
If you’re newly becoming acquainted to your skillset, it will take time to recognize what best suits your process. Take time to learn from professionals, and see what’s worked for them first, then evaluate what modifications, if any, should be made to your personal approach.
There are several “out of the box” processes that have become the industry norm. Sometimes, these processes exist for a reason, however I encourage you to measure those conventions against your own vision.
How I’ve personally challenged the convention
I spent five years designing for various design studios, in house design teams and freelancing before I established a process that meets the quality of my vision — and one that definitely challenges the industry norm. A bit of background: Typically, when presenting a design proof to a client, the designer will provide about 3 options for the client to select from. This is standard in all areas of design — web mockups, logo design, stationery, brochures, etc.
Well — I’ve gained the experience that tells me this goes directly against my approach. If you’re a designer… don’t lie, you know which of the 3 options the client should hands-down go with. You know which will resonate best with their audience, and which best reflects their brand. I’m going to get real with you. If you’re a designer and present 3 options, and don’t know which is the best option… you didn’t design a thorough solution to give to your client.
So, instead of offering 3 options to my clients for logo designs, my team at Spruce Rd. presents one solution instead. Our clients hire us for our expertise, so we provide them with the solution, rather than allowing them to compromise the design. We go all out on that first proof and fully execute the design. Prior to design, we have a thorough research phase + phone calls to understand the client’s target audience’s needs. I’ll touch more on this approach in a future article, but for now just realize that we’ve definitely strayed from the convention here, and it has paid off in full. Clients typically fall in love with the first proof, and aren’t weighted with which option they should pursue. Win/win for both sides of the project!
Craft your own path
As you begin to layer other products + services to your business, and create a long-term vision, make sure that your plan is unique to you. We all know how easy it is to fall victim to the comparison game, but when it comes to your brand you can’t afford to follow someone else’s footsteps. Craft your own unique path that follows your long-term vision, and isn’t a photocopy of someone else’s brand. Avoid looking over your shoulder, or ahead of you, to see what trajectory your competitors are taking.
For instance, if one of your competitors offers similar services as you do, and then started a successful podcast, that does not mean you should do the same, or would have the same results. What was successful for them does not equal success for you. You have a unique voice, approach and intuition so do it justice and let it shine. Instead of a podcast, you could offer videos, write a book, tutorials, new products or workshops. The possibilities are endless for you to share your voice. Craft your own unique path, and you’ll be on your way to creating an enduring brand.
Challenge the convention
I hope that you feel encouraged from this article, and learn to not be afraid to challenge the convention, step outside of your comfort zone, and carve your own path. I’m looking forward to next week in the final part of the “enduring brand” series! Promise, next week I’m not holding back and I can’t wait to conclude this series with a bang.